Yesterday at the horse show there were these chaps with little trays around their necks (like cinema ice cream sellers) selling long packets of roasted and salted almonds. Then, today as we sat in the plaza near the apartment having lunch, I spotted a couple of chaps with these baskets on their shoulders.
At first I thought they were selling fish but then Denise or Mirinda suggested it was possibly cured meat. Eventually I walked over to the shop and passed one of the chaps up close. He had a big basket full of almonds. The area is known for its sherry and horses but, I guess, it’s also big on the almonds.
When I think of shop, I can’t really help but remember the three hours Mirinda and Denise spent in the gift shop across the way from our apartment. Clearly very well versed in the Slow Movement, the woman proprietor spent an inordinate time wrapping purchases.
While I thought this was a great way to go through life, it was pointed out that there is a limit to how long you can stand around watching someone measure out bits of sticky tape, discarding the bits that were a millimetre too long.
Apart from waiting for gift wrapping and tapas, we also went and visited the Alcazar today, going via the little fish market. It wasn’t hard to find. I mean the fish market. It was just a matter of following our noses. The Alcazar, on the other hand, was not smelly at all.
There was probably something built at the same location in the 11th century however, what mostly remains was built in the 12th by the Almohad rulers of southern Spain. Eventually the Almohads were ousted and the Christians moved in, making it a place for their mayors. No, I don’t know what that means either.
Apart from a bit of work in the 17th century, the whole place suffered away into a bit of a messy state until restoration started in the late 1930’s. Now it’s looking very good though there’s still some areas to go.
Possibly my favourite bit was the Mesquita (Mosque) which features not just the qibla to show the direction of Mecca but also a place to keep the Koran, matting on the walls and a lovely little bubbling fountain.
Of course we managed to see it after Tour Group #2 had left. (I’m fairly certain I saw Polly and Dennis with the group.) Then we were joined by a small group of giggling Swedes. At least I think they were Swedish. I’m obviously not 100% certain but they sounded exactly how I suspect Swedes sound.
They managed to stay either just ahead or just behind us for the rest of our wander around the grounds. It didn’t make any difference how fast or slow we walked, they were always there. Not that I minded. They weren’t as annoying as Tour Group #2 would have been…though they did giggle a lot.
As well as the Mesquita, I rather liked the Arab baths which reminded me of the Roman baths, so similar in style, purpose and engineering.
Actually, to be completely honest, I liked the whole place not least because of an absence of crowds. Mind you, as we were leaving, there was a queue at the ticket office as the tourists started to arrive.
My biggest sadness is the fact that the camera obscura was not working. I don’t know why. It was quite annoying particularly since I could walk right up to it only to be turned away by the old velvet rope at the last steps. The room where it lives is atop the Villavicencio Palace.
The Palacio was built by Lorenzo Fernandez de Villavicencio in around 1664 after he inherited the Alcazar. As well as having the big house built he also set about doing a bit of restoring of the grounds generally.
For reasons known only to a few, the Municipal Pharmacy from the 19th century is on the second floor of the palace. This includes all the original furnishings and pots. It’s unclear whether the pharmacy was there to begin with or whether someone decided it would make for a nice little conversation starter at dinner parties.
Having walked the length, breadth, heights and depths of the Alcazar (without, I should add, finding the shop), we left, heading back to our little square in order to have lunch. We decided, for our final lunch in Jerez to revisit Gabriela’s. And so we sat, for about an hour, watching people wander by, eating our various dishes at our sun soaked table.
I’m sure no-one has said that if you sit long enough at Gabriela’s you’ll see the whole world pass by but it certainly felt like it today as our various dishes took a very long time to arrive. At least there were sizeable intervals between each one. Not that it mattered a jot. There were a lot of dogs to spot which is always a pleasure.
(Actually, we’ve noticed that an awful lot of people have dogs in Jerez, at least where we’re staying. It’s all very lovely.)
I particularly enjoyed watching the well heeled heading for what we figured was a christening at the nearby church of Mary’s ascension. Particularly interesting was the fact that the mother of the very small child was not a happy mummy. Perhaps she was an atheist but her overbearing Spanish husband insisted the poor kid get splashed into Catholicism. Who knows. Whatever the reasons for her sullen expression, I rather liked her flying saucer of a hat.
Then, of course, it was siesta though today it was with a bit of a difference. It was like the whole of Jerez de la Frontera was coming to our little square. Noise filled the narrow lanes as some sort of parade roamed around out of sight. We think it was probably like the Half Term Mary procession we saw in Seville only some other Mary. Possibly the ascending one.
Whatever it was, it went on for a long time. There was noise and chatter and screaming and yahooing; even the occasional almond selling wagon. And it didn’t stop when whatever the procession was stopped. The band stopped playing but the people kept coming.
And most of them were dressed up. Thousands of them with the whole family, strolling the streets, heading somewhere, happy and unhurried. And all of them passing beneath our balcony. It felt good, as if we were part of the town life.
Eventually we went out to dinner though we started with a drink at the Gorilla Bar. I had another Punk IPA while Denise and Mirinda had a couple of buckets of white spirit with scant room for mixers.
We tried a place for dinner that Mirinda had picked earlier but they sent us outside, pretending they were completely booked up inside. We sat for a moment then decided to try the next place up. It was an excellent decision.
The place we ended up at was a narrow place attached to a bar. It was a sherry place with an entire menu of them to choose from. We (Mirinda and I) started with a medium and I ended with a Pedro Ximinez Nectar, which it was. It would have been impolite not to.
And the meal was lovely. We felt no qualms at leaving the first place.
We then walked back to the apartment via a few back streets, marvelling at the amount of people still roaming the streets including three and four year olds with their parents, old couples and people with their dogs.
I really like this about Spain. The whole treating life as a pleasure and not too serious. Utterly works for me. Mind you, they were still wandering around when I went to bed at midnight.
Well, that’s it for Jerez de la Frontera. Tomorrow we move to Cadiz.